Luke has written a complex and beautiful story of Jesus. Interwoven in his Gospel are Scripture references that connect God’s activity in the Old Testament with that of the New.
The Gospel of Luke was written to Theophilus, which means “lover or friend of God.” All lovers of God will deepen their faith by reading and deeply thinking about Luke’s message.
As you read the first 25 verses of the Gospel, recall other servants of God who were unable to have children but received a miraculous birth. Think about how God changes barrenness into blessing and blessing into benefit for others.
Consider the response of John the Baptist’s parents to the news that Elizabeth was to conceive a child in her old age.
God Knows the Heart
The Bible is filled with instances where the inside condition or heart of a human is emphasized. Notice the emphasis on the “heart” or inside condition of the religious authorities in the Gospel of Mark.
— Mark 2.6-8 – Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,
“Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts?
It appears that the religious leaders refrained from speaking about their response to Jesus’ message of forgiveness to the paralyzed man.
Jesus knew what they were thinking and challenged their resistance to his healing and forgiving ministry.
The same “heart issues” were prevalent with Zechariah. Notice the dialogue between Gabriel and Zechariah below.
— Luke 1.13 – But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.
— Luke 1.18 – Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.”
— Luke 1.19-20 – The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.
“But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”
The only hint of Zechariah’s unbelief was a request for a sign, but the angel knew his heart and labeled his behavior as unbelief.
Proverbs counsels us: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4.23).
What great advice! Elizabeth and Mary are contrasted to the inner-self unbelief of Zechariah. Let’s be certain to follow their example.
Sarah and Elizabeth
Sarah was another famous woman who was unable to conceive. When the angels told her husband that they were going to have a child, she responded with sarcastic unbelief.
— Genesis 18.12 – So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?”
To give Sarah credit, she didn’t know that the men speaking to Abraham were messengers who had been sent from God.
As we continue with Luke’s account, we will see a different response from Elizabeth.
— Luke 1.21-23 – Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary.
When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak.
When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
The people were left in suspense about what took place in the Temple, but Elizabeth was to learn what were God’s plans.
— Luke 1.24-25 – After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said,
“This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”
Elizabeth responded to the good news with open-handed acceptance of God’s activity.
The issue of faith and unbelief is central to the Bible and to human response in general.
There isn’t a sacred store where we can purchase a pound of faith, but we do have the ability to create an atmosphere where faith may flourish.
Creating an Atmosphere of Faith
We can’t purchase faith at a store and neither can we manufacture it with self-effort. There are some practices that create an atmosphere making it easier to believe.
— Knowledge of God – We are more apt to believe someone whom we know.
The same applies to God. The better we know God the easier it will be to trust his guidance.
God has given us prayer and the Bible to help us know him better. The reason why I emphasize praying what we read in the Bible is that prayer connects us to God and his word.
— Obedience – Disobedience reveals a lack of belief.
If we believe God is who we say he is, then obedience is the most natural response to God. The parents of John and Jesus obeyed God because they believed his word to them.
On the other hand, disobedience reveals the true nature of our hearts. With striking words, Jesus emphasized the importance of backing up our words with actions.
— Matthew 7.21-23 – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’
Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’
Dear God, As we consider the central message of Luke’s Gospel, we pray that our faith will be genuine. May our inside condition and outward actions reflect our trust in you.
Please take 8-10 minutes to view a YouTube video on the Bob Spradling channel. Rudy Ross adds his perspectives to this study. He is a very good student of the Bible and lover of God. You will be blessed to learn from him.